Liberty Grove Sues County, Rowleys Bay Resort Over Zip Line Variance

The Town of Liberty Grove has initiated legal action against the Door County Board of Adjustment and the owners of Rowleys Bay Resort in Ellison Bay over the issuance of a land use variance that allows the resort to run zip lines.

“We have filed a complaint against the Door County Board of Adjustment and Wagon Trail Inc. and Wagon Trail Land Co., which are the parent companies of Rowleys Bay Resort,” said Bud Kalms, town administrator/clerk.

The lawsuit is based on a new addition to the Door County Zoning Ordinance that was added on April 8 of this year, which sets the minimum lot size requirement for an Outdoor Active Recreation Facility at 20 acres.

“They did not meet the 20-acre requirement,” Kalms said. “We’re trying to do things according to the law.”

The complaint states “the proposed zip line course and climbing wall would total only 14.52 acres across two lots.”

The resort property is registered under two different entities – Wagon Trail, Inc., and Wagon Trail Land Co., LLC, – but is owned by the same people, a 50-50 ownership between Jewel and Bob Ouradnik and Bob Czerniakowski. Kalms said if the owners had joined the parcels under one entity they would have complied with the new zoning ordinance.

“The unique property limitations were not met. They did not explain that adequately to the commission,” Kalms said. “There was a question of noise and closeness to adjacent lots, closer than 100 feet, that came into play also.”

Kalms points out that the town had no problem with the zip line, which is to be operated by DC Adventure Center.

“The Board of Adjustment erred in giving them a variance for their zip line project,” Kalms said.

Nancy Goss, chairwoman of the town’s Plan Commission, which voted 7-0 against the variance, confirmed that the town is not against the zip line but finds fault with the way in which it was approved.

“It is complicated and has nothing to do with objecting to a zip line and everything to do with variance criteria,” she said. “That said, I cannot comment at this time because the town has filed an appeal to the county Board of Adjustment’s decision and we have pending litigation.”

The resort, however, feels it is the victim of what may be a costly nuisance lawsuit.

“The variance we needed was for the technical requirements,” said resort spokeswoman Susie Watson. “We crossed over a line of internal properties that are owned by two different resort entities all owned by the same people. The town voted it down and the county disagreed with them. The county felt, from a point of view of reasonableness, there was absolutely no issue. What [the town] said was, We want you to move acreage from here to here. Do all this stuff that would cost a great deal of money to make it fit our requirement, rather than give us a variance. We thought that was ridiculous, and so did the county. What they’re saying is, ‘The law is 20 acres. We don’t care if you’re asking for a variance. You need to do this.’

What we said to them was, ‘OK, why do you have variances if you won’t grant variances? Why have a committee if you only read from the book and say, here’s the law?’ This is going to cost us a good deal of money and time and that is not recoverable even if we win, by law. Why would they do this? We just don’t get it.”

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